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Let’s Expand the Scope of Conscience Protection

Wesley J. Smith

Conscience

As I have written here and elsewhere, attacks on medical conscience are proliferating, and the ground is being prepared to strip doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others of the ability to practice their professions under the principles of Hippocratic ideals.

I suspect that if the Left ever again takes control of the government, conscience rights will come under even more concerted attack than is currently happening. I mean, they tried to force nuns to provide contraception in the order’s health insurance.

A bill was introduced in Congress to strengthen existing conscience protections. Called the Conscience Protection Act of 2017, the bill states:

Notwithstanding any other law, the Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, may not penalize, retaliate against, or otherwise discriminate against a health care provider on the basis that the provider does not–

“(1) perform, refer for, pay for, or otherwise participate in abortion;

“(2) provide or sponsor abortion coverage; or

“(3) facilitate or make arrangements for any of the activities specified in this subsection.

The bill would permit aggrieved parties to sue, rather than having to rely on bureaucrats to protect them:

A qualified party may, in a civil action, obtain appropriate relief with regard to a designated violation.

That’s all well and good, but the legislation, as written, is far too narrowly drawn. The pending crisis of medical conscience extends far beyond abortion.

For example, the ACLU has sued a Catholic hospital for refusing to permit surgeons to excise a transsexual’s healthy uterus for the purposes of sex reassignment.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel Emanuel — among other influential bioethicists — insists that doctors must provide every elective procedure requested by informed patients regardless of their own moral beliefs — so long as the medical establishment accepts the procedure as proper. Talk about a tyranny of the majority!

Efforts are underway to eventually compel nursing homes to starve and dehydrate dementia patients to death — even when willingly taking nourishment — if they so requested in an advance directive. It is important to note in this regard that spoon feeding isn’t a medical treatment but humane care.

In Ontario, Canada, doctors are now legally forced to euthanize patients or procure death doctors for patients wanting to die. True, that isn’t the United States, but don’t think it can’t happen here should assisted suicide/euthanasia become widely accepted societally.

I could go — and have gone — on and on. But clearly, the scope of the conscience controversy extends well beyond abortion.

Accordingly, the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 should be amended to protect health care professionals from being compelled to participate in elective procedures — which would need to be carefully defined, obviously — to which they are morally or religiously opposed.

The sooner the better, or it could become too late.

Image: © WavebreakmediaMicro — stock.adobe.com.

Cross-posted at The Corner.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.

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abortionConscience Protection Act of 2017contraceptioneuthanasiaEzekiel Emanuelhealth insuranceHippocratic Oathnursesphysicians